Stakes Getting Higher in the Game Around Kosovo.

The PACE plans to discuss the crimes committed by Kosovo separatists at the January session.Moreover, the PACE Legal Affairs Committee is calling "for a series of international and national investigations into evidence of disappearances, organ trafficking, corruption and collusion between organised criminal groups and political circles in Kosovo". One might get an impression that - for the first time since the 1999 NATO aggression against Yugoslavia - Europe which used to brush off Russia's and Serbia's suggestions that the Hague Tribunal take a closer look at the leaders of the self-proclaimed Kosovo's Liberation Army somehow woke up to the Kosovo reality. So far, two episodes - the publication of former ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte's book containing revelations that human organ trafficking in Kosovo was sanctioned by Kosovo Liberation Army's top officers and the acquittal of one of those officers Ramush Haradinaj - epitomized the West's unsavory tolerance in the Kosovo case. In fact, even Swiss investigator Dick Marty's report that eventually drew the PACE attention to the rampant organized crime in Kosovo has been barely mentioned over the past several months in the Western media.

Oddly enough, the Kosovo problem is surfacing in the PACE, an organization which has never displayed much compassion for the Serbs. Marty's report about a criminal group from Drenica led by Hashim Thaci and the illicit organ trafficking in Kosovo portrays the picture with utmost clarity. Marty claims that the group continues to operate and even cites the Western democracies support for Thaci in the context.

The charges are not exactly new, and it may be more important at the moment to understand the motivation behind the investigation. Marty's report was voted in by the PACE Legal Affairs Committee unanimously, but the question persists: what explains the timing of the PACE interest in Thaci? The integrity of the Swiss investigator is beyond doubt, but we need to know whether his report will have far-reaching consequences and how far Europe is prepared to go in investigating the crimes as monstrous as the Nazi medical experiments.

PACE's unanticipated realism is likely linked to the collapse of the secret plan the US and the EU attempted to implement during the talks between Belgrade and Pristina last fall. The West hoped to exact at least a de facto recognition of the Kosovo independence from the Serbian president but - facing permanent pressure from the Serbian opposition - even the servile Tadic was unable to sign anyaccords with a figure as notorious as Thaci.Therefore, Pristina needed a facelift to look like a more acceptable partner. This was the purpose of the planned overhaul in the ranks of the Kosovo administration: Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu's resignation was supposed to be followed by that of the province's premier Hashim Thaci. Thaci, however, refused to leave, and a further entrenchment of radical Albanian groups in Pristina began to loom on the horizon. The West, preoccupied with convincing Belgrade to cooperate, launched a campaign targeting Thaci in response.

Washington's reaction to the recent elections in Kosovo may be another indication of the US readiness to sacrifice Thaci. Unprecedentedly, US Department of State spokesman M. Toner called the Kosovo electoral commission to probe into the serious abuses which took place during the elections. Washington's hint was that Kosovo would still be regarded as a democracy, but it would have to be a Kosovo without Thaci. The message was promptly picked up in the EU.

Obviously, believing that the international law is about to be re-established in dealing with the Kosovo problem would be overly optimistic. Even if Thaci and his henchmen face justice, the US will do its best to divert the investigation from the broader Kosovo project. Sacrificing Thaci simply means that the stakes in the game around Kosovo are getting higher.

[Source: Pyotr Iskenderov, Strategic Cultural Foundation, 20Dec10].

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The Question of Kosovo
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